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Family wants building named after fallen firefighter

Toni Godsil a pioneer for women in firefighting

 


The family of a woman killed while fighting a local wildfire 25 years ago is hoping a new fire station planned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation could be named after her.

Toni Godsil died Aug. 6, 1990, while fighting a wildland fire in Douglas County with the Grand Coulee Volunteer Fire Department when wind shifted and the flames caught up to her.

“She was the first female firefighter to be hired by the government into a program to be a 24-hour firefighter,” said her daughter, Danielle Townsend. “I just think that she really deserves some recognition for that; that’s huge.”

The pilot program was a test to see how to incorporate women into firefighting, living in the same quarters as their male counterparts, Townsend said.

Breaking into the male-dominated profession, however, wasn’t easy, and Godsil did face obstacles, including sexual harassment, Townsend stated.

“When people would ask her, ‘Why do you do it?’” Townsend said, “her response was, first of all, she needed insurance for her children, and she was opening doors for women everywhere. She honestly believed that. She was fighting for it.”

But getting a federal building named after someone is not easy. It literally takes an act of Congress, the USBR’s regional director, Lorri Lee, responded to a proponent of the idea in an email last year.

“However, we might be able to invite the family over and recognize her contributions as part of an opening ceremony,” Lee suggested in the email provided to The Star.

Not content with that idea, Townsend said family members and supporters are getting ready to send letters to the state’s congressional delegation to seek support, “trying to see if anyone can help us get this done.”

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who visited local wildland fires in August, said then that she hadn’t heard of the family’s wishes but that her office would be willing to look into the matter.

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